By Marc Hertz, Søren Mouritsen and Anand Gautam Summer 2000
The excitement over the past 30 years for immunotherapy of cancer and other diseases has not led to the expected clinical successes. Over-enthusiasts predicted a cure for cancer with the initial development of monoclonal antibody technology, and later the magic bullets or toxin-labelled antibodies. Identification of proteins restricted to, or at least overexpressed in tumours has also led to disappointing clinical results. The main barriers have been a lack of immunological understanding of the processes at work, eg immune tolerance. Advances in our understanding of how to induce strong immune responses and how to manipulate the immune system to avoid immunological tolerance have opened the way for emerging therapeutic vaccinations in the treatment of not only cancer, but other diseases as well. This review will focus on immunotherapy for cancer and chronic human diseases characterised by the altered expression of self-proteins.